How to Address a Co-Worker’s Use of Your First Name around Offenders

Frankly, there is no place for informality in the corrections setting (other than perhaps locker-room banter among colleagues who tacitly agree to the casual nature).

For example, whether it be publicized on a metal nameplate or embroidered on a CO's uniform, there is a reason the last name is spelled out usually preceded by ONLY the first initial (or ONLY the last name). Further, there are statutes on the books which solely seek to permit LEOs (along with prosecutors and judges) to use business addresses on their driver licenses and such. There is no science involved in why such laws were enacted: bad guys salivate to make life miserable for those who they deem "the one who jammed me up!"

Technology (and prisons allowing some interplay on computers) facilitates the discovery of just about any identity one may seek, so the complete name of any CO is potentially deliverable via a few clicks and reading time. Not much to do about this factor, and disallowing computer use altogether more than likely results in inmates filing lawsuits.

Do Your Homework

Internally-speaking, however, the first step for a CO seeking resolution to this valid dilemma is homework: scour the facility's/agency's policies and SOPs (standard operating procedures) so that absolute education regarding what is permitted and/or forbidden is on the table. Then, and only then, is it advisable to proceed with a focus on the remedy, by citing exactly (quoting) what is written in agency rules/regulations, etc. Going forward, following chain-of-command is crucial, with everything in writing.

Common sense, adherence to procedure, and personal experience should instill a professional need for a regiment of documentation, supported by one’s superiors. It should be immediately clear why this method becomes paramount. After all, COs are taught to write comprehensive reports regarding their duties and observations about problem inmates/behaviors. This practice goes both ways, including prison colleagues, no matter the rank.

Diplomacy Is Important

As a caveat, diplomacy in such a process is critical. Why? Demeanor counts for something, especially when confronting internal issues, which may result in being on someone's bad side. Dignity, self-respect, integrity and professionalism are essential, despite the fallout after filing an official internal-based complaint. Other than filing an internal complaint, there are many ways to navigate the chain-of-command which, when strictly followed, either becomes part of the solution....or part of the problem. If your actions result in the latter, keep climbing until you find success (success, not only for yourself, but for other CO’s and your unit as a whole).

Stephen Owsinski

Stephen Owsinski

Stephen Owsinski is Brooklyn-born and spent his law enforcement career in Tampa Bay. He studied Criminology and English in West Central Florida. The breadth of Stephen's police life was spent in the Patrol Division, culminating in his role as a Field Training Officer (FTO). Stephen maintains a focus on trends in--and the altering dynamics of--the law enforcement profession. He enjoys writing and reading, is a photo-realistic portrait artist, and revels in time with his children.
Stephen Owsinski

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